In October 2015, California passed one of the most progressive equal pay laws in America. The California Fair Pay Act mandates equal pay for “substantially similar work,” as well as giving all workers the right compare salaries without retribution from employers. According to Patricia Arquette, the law will have a disproportionate effect on Hollywood.
Arquette, who has been one of the most public faces for equal pay in Hollywood, said today that the entertainment industry, “...[is] going to have to make a radical readjustment, and they know that, because they know for decades they have been paying unfairly.”
Though the California law is expansive, it does have a few proverbial “outs” for employers. It allows employers to defend pay disparity based on “quantity and quality of production,” as well as merit and seniority. Arquette said that these reasons could be used in the entertainment industry to defend unequal pay.
“When you work in TV, you have something called a TVQ as an actress. So that is kind of your rating, how many people recognize you on TV. There’s a value to that. There is a value to that you won an award. So obviously, the industry will be trying to show different values and how things make sense.”
Hannah-Beth Jackson, California Senator and co-author of the bill, said that Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech (which later went off the rails) had given the bill “momentum.” Arquette’s speech was one of the first public acknowledgements since the Sony leaks that Hollywood had a pay gap problem; an issue that’s also been addressed by Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence.
“Jennifer Lawrence pays someone to negotiate on her behalf. But guess what? She is paying the same person those guys are paying. And yet subconsciously, their agents think, ‘This is just the status quo, this is the way the business is.’ They have allowed that to happen. The people she has been paying, and every woman has been paying Hollywood, have been allowing them to be undervalued. Their managers, Their agents. The studio. Everybody has to make a shift and go ‘Wait a second, dude, we know you are paying him whatever.’”
California’s law goes into effect on January 1st. It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect it will have on the film industry.
Image via AP.